BURRILLVILLE – After looking at some 17 properties in town, officials have determined that the skate park in Burrillville should remain at its current location, and efforts to improve the facility with the help of a $500,000 state grant are soon expected to get underway.
Councilors unanimously approved a recommendation by Town Planner Ray Goff this month to maintain the park on Chapel Street, with plans to expand both parking and equipment on the 1.3 acre town-owned property.
Goff told the board that the group studying locations for the skate park considered issues including visibility, proximity to the center of town, impact to abutters and ownership of the potential lots.
“The existing site, to us, seems to make the most sense,” Goff said. “We know it works where it is.”
Location was important factor in light of the skate park’s history in Burrillville. The town purchased the land where the facility sits now in 2011, and the busy park has seen nearly daily use in the time since – but the equipment is even older. The roughly 6,000-square-foot steel structure was first erected at Eccleston Field in 2005.
“Within a few years concerns emerged regarding unruly behavior, skaters causing disturbances among school staff and students, use of offensive language, and littering,” notes a write up on the history.
Just four years after the park’s installation, the equipment at Eccleston was dismantled. Years later, it was refurbished and installed where it now sits on Chapel Street, where activity is visible from the busy roadway.
Last year, a petition to replace the park started by resident Jordan Roy garnered nearly 600 signatures, and soon after, the town Burrillville Planning Department submitted a grant application to Congressional Rep. Jim Langevin’s office. A $500,000 grant, which requires a town match of $150,000, was approved as part of the federal budget, and town officials have since met with local kids to garner their input on a new skate park.
Now, the 18-year-old equipment is on track to be replaced with a multi-level, 10,000-square-foot facility featuring a concrete bowl and ramps for use by scooters, bikes and skateboards. Parking may be doubled for inclusion of up to 26 vehicles, with construction slated for 2025.
“This expansion project will offer a larger recreation area with both in and above ground obstacles and challenges for multiple riders to enjoy simultaneously, thereby eliminating the current frustrations and safety concerns surrounding overcrowding and use of heavily worn equipment,” noted a grant application submitted last April.
Audrey Hussey, owner of the nearby business Village Martial Arts, was among those submitting letters of support.
“From a business standpoint, a modernization and expansion of the existing skate park would increase park attendance thereby increasing visibility of my business,” noted Hussey. “As a fitness enthusiast and martial arts instructor, I value the importance of physical activity for every age group. I feel that this project will offer a new and exciting recreational opportunity for kids of all ages and abilities.”
“I think it’s a good idea to leave it there,” said Councilor Stephen Rawson during discussion at a council meeting on Wednesday, August 23, adding that the town should petition the state to put in a crosswalk to access the nearby store. “The kids are crossing that street. It’s dangerous.”
Councilor Jeremy Bailey noted that the use of concrete will make the new park far quieter.
“I think this is a great idea,” Bailey said. “It gives an alternative for kids who don’t play regular organized sports to get out there.”
Town Manager Michael said the town will now start the permitting process, which will have to include a wetlands application with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.